Foreign Policy and Prospect magazine held voting for the top 100 public intellectuals earlier this year. The results are available now. They are surprising at first, and then not. The top 10 were all Muslims, a result that arose from bald politicking and religious and national identification among the voters. Although this might invalidate the results for some, they are still important for two reasons:
1) It shows a genuine desire and effort by the Muslim intellectual class to bring their public debates into the global consciousness. The brightest people residing in Islamic states do not want to be isolated and misunderstood.
2) This is a valuable education for people in the West (and around the world). To be honest, I had only ever heard of four of the men (and they’re all men) in the top ten. And among those, I had only a passing familiarity with three of them.
Perhaps I am horribly uninformed, or perhaps not. I will confess that my five votes were biased towards the West (they’re either American or English), though there were many more that I wished I could have voted for. In any case, I chose:
The results are also interesting because you know the people on the list care about where they rank. Salman Rushdie beat Christopher Hitchens (Amis wasn’t even on the list). Poor Ian Buruma finished dead last. Thomas Friedman was in the middle of the pack. And still other names shouldn’t have been there at all (I’ll leave you to judge who).
In any case, the results merit consideration, so here you go: